November 2018 Update

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good night; wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whatever is on your mind, take a moment to be grateful for your life and whatever is in it.

Normally, I like to have some sort of theme to my posts, and often I try to have a lesson behind it. This time, however, I want it to be different. I haven’t written in a long time, and honestly I miss it! I’ve been very uninspired and lacking ideas, but I think it will be good for me to, for lack of better term, “word vomit” and just say what I’m thinking.

Being a senior in high school now, I’ve been swamped with a lot of responsibilities. I have to take the SAT in a little less than two weeks, I’m trying to fill out applications for college, compose a decent personal statement, tour colleges and ultimately decide on where I’m going to further my education next year. On top of that, I have to keep my GPA up this year so I can get into all the colleges I want, which means working extra hard to make sure I can get all A’s. Maybe I’m complaining too much, but anyone in my boat, or who has been recently, can understand that 12th grade is not an easy grade.

Of course, what is most important to me through this all, is my own wellbeing. I’m working on a post specifically talking about self love, but for now I’ll just say: Catholics need to practice self love as well! It’s very easy to get caught up in a servant’s attitude and neglect our own needs. Especially in my case, I tend to put others before me to a fault, which doesn’t exactly work out.

So this year, this is my project. How can I tend to my mental health needs while still meeting the expectations placed on me? How can I schedule time for work, friends, and leisure while still maintaining a healthy balance of the three? It hasn’t been easy. Struggling with anxiety and seasonal affective disorder has definitely made it even more difficult. But I sure am trying.

For example, I’m writing this right now. I could have been doing extra work for school, and granted that might have been a better use of my time, but I know that with Thanksgiving coming up, I’ll have plenty of time to catch up. I’m face timing with my best friend while she listens to new indie music and cleans her room. My own room is decorated for Christmas. I’m burning a vanilla scented candle. (I’m trying to paint a picture here.) Overall, it’s a very peaceful vibe, much needed after a long, stressful week.

I’m also trying to work on not holding myself to expectations that are too high. I have a tendency to expect only excellence from myself, even in situations in which its unreasonable. So even though I haven’t written anything fantastic and inspiring tonight, I’ve shared a piece of my life. Maybe in won’t get engagement, maybe no one will care to read it, but I’m writing this for me. I’m putting something out there to hopefully kickstart my inspiration again. So if you’ve made it this far, thank you!

I know this wasn’t like my usual posts, but hopefully those will be making a comeback sometime soon. Until then, God bless and Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Amanda6182748128_IMG_5130

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Three Words That Have Changed My Relationships With Others

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good night – wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, however you’re feeling, take a moment to be grateful for everything you have.

When I went to a Catholic Youth Camp in Georgia at the end of June, I encountered Christ in a new, unexpected way – something that happens often in a good relationship with God. Each night, our keynote speaker would present the camp with a truth about God and a question to go along with it. She explained that questioning our faith doesn’t create separation between God and ourselves; it invites us to let Him into our hearts and answer the question for us.

On the fourth night of camp, Thursday, she asked, “If God is always present, why is He silent?” She explored the common feeling that God doesn’t speak to us at all, that our constant prayers are met with deafening silence. However, a lot of the time, our prayers are few and far between – drowned out by noise and distraction in our everyday lives. Some of these things are ultimate goods, such as school, friendships, or other responsibilities. Others can be negative, with a glaring example being social media. She invited the camp to engage in a full sixty minutes of silence. No talking, reading, singing, or anything of the sort. It gave us teens a chance to slow down and listen to God’s voice, and for many it offered an opportunity to finally receive in fullness a message He has been trying to relay to them.

I’ve been to many of these camps and retreats before, and I consider myself to have at least a semi-active prayer life. Of course, there is always room to grow and I am fully aware of the fact that I can still become closer to Christ than I am now. That being said, a lot of youth events are catered towards teenagers who don’t have an active prayer life and need to encounter Christ for the first time. I participate in the activities, but I obviously don’t have a very strong emotional response to everything.

Going into the hour of silence, I knew I wanted to ask God to speak to me. I expected a heavenly revelation, a shocking realization, and maybe even some tears. I should have known going into it that God works beyond my expectations.

I spent a good deal of the first thirty-five minutes getting distracted and then reeling myself back in and praying that God would speak to me. I was open to what He had to say, but I still had my expectations. The friend I was with quietly asked if I wanted to move to a different spot on campus: a bench swing overlooking the lake and the setting sun. I, of course, accepted, and as we made our way over, we saw a stray dog. We pet the dog, sat on the bench, and I closed my eyes, marveling at how peaceful it was. The sky was a brilliant blue, but the clouds were starting to turn golden. The lake sparkled and the wind floated around us.

I just started to doze off a bit when I heard a distinctly different voice than my own that whispered, “Just be with Me.”

“Just be with Me.”

It all made sense. At this point in my life, that’s all I needed – a reminder to soak in the glory of God and be at peace with my heart.

After getting home from camp, I made an effort to go back to that headspace as often as I could. I would replay His words in my mind over and over, praying on them and letting myself just be. It wasn’t until a month later that I realized the depth behind those words.

So often, when I spend time with a friend, I have an agenda. It seems a lot more comfortable to make plans down to the minute with a friend – we’ll meet here at 1:00, then at 2:15 we’ll drive here – but I find that it’s unfulfilling. Of course, it’s nice to have things to do, and I’m not going to just quit that entirely, but I find that with any relationship in my life, it’s so much more peaceful to “just be” with the person I’m choosing to spend my time with.

Some of my favorite memories with my best friends involve just walking around town, sitting in the drive thru for twenty minutes, staying up until 3:30am just talking about our lives. It’s fun to go to the mall, watch movies, play games, or have photoshoots, but I can get so focused on that that I forget to appreciate the person I’m with. Agendas can be distracting from the true reason why you’d want to hang out with a friend. Since I’ve decided to “just be”, I’ve learned more about my friends and family as humans. I’m slowly starting to see them for who they are, and not just for what they can offer me or how we fit together.

Here is my advice to you: learn how to just be with people in your life. God, your parents, your siblings, your friends. Make the time you spend together a gift to the other person. Forget about yourself and your agenda for a while and appreciate the good people in your life.6176689328_IMG_4760

 

(P.S. Thank you for being patient with me while I took a break from uploading. I’m going to try to be more consistent.)

Whatever You Think, God is Bigger

Good morning, good day, good afternoon, good evening, good night – wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, take a moment to think of something good in your life and be grateful for it.

I, as many of us do, have an idea of who God is, what He does, and how He moves in my life. No matter how much I strive for a close relationship with Him, I still have the pre-conceived notion that He is just a distant being, not involved personally with me, but indifferently with only the world at large. I find myself believing that he holds grudges, withholds graces, doesn’t listen to me after I’ve sinned, and favors holier people over me. And as for His movement in my life, I find myself only really looking for it in religious people: priests, ministers, parishioners, speakers. My stubbornly human heart just cannot fathom the awesome reality of who God really is. Every once and a while I have to remind myself of something: God is bigger.

Logically speaking, since there is good in the world, and since there is a deep calling in our hearts to give of ourselves, there has to be something outside of human beings that is the cause of that. I’ll explain in a different post exactly why I believe this and more, but for now we’ll just accept that simple explanation. But truly, humans are fallible. We fail. We fall. We hurt (both passively and actively). We damage. We use. We consume. We are prideful. We are selfish. We are hateful. We are greedy. Yet there are people in this world who succeed, who fly, who heal, who create, who love. Who are self-giving and humble. With the inclination to sin there is a strong call to be good, which comes from outside of us, from a being who is perfect in example for all of these virtues, who Himself created them.

That being, of course, is God.

And if God really is divine, and truly perfect, He has to rise above any human inclinations.

Often times God can seem like a distant being; out of reach, out of touch from reality. St. Catherine of Siena once said, “God is closer to us than water is to a fish.” It can be hard to believe, I know, but really, would God be divine if He were confined to such a far away place in our hearts? Would He be God if He did not take the time to be closer to each human person than water is to a fish? God is bigger.

I used to think that God was prideful because He knew how great and powerful he was. I still struggle with this sometimes, but God is self-aware. He knows truth and He is truth. If He didn’t know that He is great, He wouldn’t be perfect. And He is perfect. Divinity and humility go hand in hand. God knows that He is good, but He does not let that get in the way of loving us, of stooping down to our level, digging His hands in the dirt of death, and carrying us to Him. He knows He is good, but He is not prideful. Everything that He does is for our benefit. And even now, I question this, knowing that the conversion of even one sinner brings God immense joy; so how can He not call us to Him for His own benefit? But remember, that is an utterly human inclination. God is bigger.

I sometimes believe that God holds grudges, that when I sin, He withholds His love from me. Though my sins hurt Him more deeply than I can imagine, think of the Cross. He loves me – and you – so completely that each strike of the whip that beat Him, each breath that rattled out of His lungs, each strained beat of His heart as He hung there, dying, was another “I love you.” He chooses to feel the pain and love me anyways, because He knows me so intimately and wants me so fully to be united to Him that the pain He bore for my sake does not ever stop being worth it, if it means that I’ll choose Him even just one time. Grudges are utterly human. Keeping love from someone for the sake of hurt is utterly human. God is bigger.

Lastly, God comes to us every day. I try to see God in everyone in my life, but a lot of the times, I forget that Jesus’ humanity manifests in everyone’s humanity. As long as someone has a pulse, God is in them. This means the barista at your coffee shop is full of the love of Christ. The homeless man on the street on your way to work. The kid or teacher at school who always gives you a hard time about your faith. God loves them and God is in them, whether they know it or not. It’s so easy to forget this simple yet astounding fact because often times we only listen to God from certain people. Priests and/or pastors, music or youth ministers, a trusted adult who lives out their faith confidently. It is so easy to limit God to the people who know Him. God has no limits; He dwells in atheists, agnostics, skeptics, deists, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus alike. God is more than the places we confine Him to. God is bigger.

God is bigger than what we believe. That is a scary fact but a comforting one as well. He can accomplish so much more than we think, but He is also so much more forgiving than we let ourselves believe. God is bigger.

 

P.S. Sorry for such a huge gap between posts. I’ve recently been struggling through a rough patch in my life and writing hasn’t been a priority. I figured Holy Thursday was a pretty good time to upload, considering the awesome weekend ahead of us. Happy Triduum!6241678640_IMG_3737

What it Means to be a Sinner

Good morning, good day, good afternoon, good evening, good night – wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re thinking, take a moment to think of one good thing in your life and be grateful for it.

If you’ve been to Mass before (and definitely in the past two weeks) you might have heard a recurring theme: sin, darkness, despair, regret. Admittedly not the cheeriest theme, and not a comfortable one at all. I used to hate Lent because it just made me feel bad about myself. It made me resent God, because who would want to sit there and have their flaws all pointed out? Definitely not me.

This time, I’m taking a different approach.

This past year I’ve spent a lot of time having anxiety attacks over things that I’ve done that I’m not proud of. I’ve cried a lot of tears, said a lot of apologetic prayers, and again and again broken my vow to never do that thing again, whether it be neglect of my faith, gossip, or anything really. Each time I break that promise, I find myself growing tired with myself, with being human, with having free will. It’s tiring to always feel like you’re doing something wrong. You just want to be doing something right for once.

And then I go to church and the readings are all talking about that same feeling, that same darkness that I just can’t seem to shake. Take the first reading from about four weeks ago, for example:

Do not human beings have a hard service on earth, and are not their days like the days of a laborer? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like laborers who look for their wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are appointed to me. When I lie down I say, “When shall I rise?” But the night is long, and I am full of tossing until dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again. Job 7: 1-4, 6-7

No one reads that and thinks, “Wow, that made me feel really good.” It’s dark. It’s full of despair. It has no hope. With a reading like that when you first sit down in church, it’s almost enough to make you get up and leave. No one wants to think about that darkness. We want to push it to the side of our minds and ignore it.

Since I didn’t walk out after the first reading, I got to hear the psalm, which starts with “Praise the Lord, for he is good.” It’s quite a change from the sadness that I had just heard a few seconds earlier. But it’s there. Why the change? Why go so quickly from darkness to praise of the God who allegedly put us in that darkness?

In the Gospel, Jesus is seen again healing the sick and possessed. He goes off to pray alone and people find Him again, but He doesn’t get frustrated or tired or sad. He tells his apostles, “For this purpose I have come.” To heal and love and accept no matter the blemishes or wounds, physical or otherwise.

That is why the change is there. Because these people who acknowledged their darkness sought light, and God, in His goodness and His Love brought it to them. He transformed them.

The Church talks so much about sinners and darkness because they are some of the few things that everyone who has ever lived, lives now, and will live in the future can understand. There’s a darkness that lives inside of us, no matter if we acknowledge it or not. But outside of us, there is a light that is so intensely bright and beautiful that darkness cannot compete with it. Jesus.

A few weeks ago, I uploaded a post about being happy, and one of the steps was to choose to be happy. Likewise, we have to choose light in order to experience Him. He is always just a breath away, waiting for us, because that is what He is here for. He is here for our darkness and here to dispel it. But we have to acknowledge what is inside of us because otherwise we won’t see ourselves be transformed.

During Lent, we are called to give something up. Like me, you might do something like chocolate or makeup, or you might be entirely lost on what to do. If you’re the latter, here is my – Jesus’ – invitation to you:

Look at the darkness in you. Wherever it may come from, identify it and give it to Jesus. It may seem like a crappy exchange to give someone sin in exchange for unconditional love, but Jesus wants nothing more than to make that exchange. He has already given you unconditional love, you just have to accept it. And give Him something in return.

It’s difficult. I’ll be the first to admit it. It’s embarrassing to offer something so ugly and full of despair to anyone, let alone Love Himself. Often times, my pride stops me from doing that – “I need to learn to handle it on my own, anyway,” or, “I know I’m better than this, so I won’t own that part of me” are phrases that I think quite often. But you can’t handle it on your own. Why? Because darkness lives in you until you let someone else in. You will keep going back – I will keep going back – until I take that step towards Jesus and let Him transform me again and again and again and again.

Acknowledge, choose, and be transformed.

You are a sinner, but God extends His hand to you through the darkness. Choose to take it. Choose to be humble and vulnerable and scared for just a moment. Because in some time, you will find yourself filled with light and sunshine and goodness. And you won’t be able to contain in within yourself anymore. 6174663056_IMG_4396

How amazing,

that Your existence

bubbles up inside me

like the river

on a summer day.

That each time

my knees bruise,

are streaked with mud,

You call me closer.

That the grass clippings

in my hair

would be the very reason

I smile so much more.

Each time we come together,

another chain breaks.

Through You,

like sunshine,

like laughter,

like hot breezes,

I am free.

 

-Amanda

Being Happy

Good morning, good day, good afternoon, good evening, good night – wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whatever is on your mind, take a moment to think of one good thing in your life, and be grateful for it.

No matter your age, gender, race, or morals, I can 100% guarantee that deep in your heart, what you truly want is happiness. How happiness directly translates to each person is different – we all have different needs. And while I certainly am not perfectly, completely happy, I think I have found a good “recipe” for happiness.

Step 1: Gratitude

Being grateful is the most important part to being happy because it ensures that you don’t take anything in your life for granted. Some of my happiest moments have been those when I feel so thankful for what is happening in front of me – laughing with my best friend, hiking in a beautiful place, spending time with my family. To carry that happiness into your everyday life means to be grateful for everything, not just the especially good things. Food, housing, a nice hot shower – these are things that a lot of people don’t have. Be grateful! You will start to see the good in everything, and be happier overall.

Step 2: Choice

Let’s face it: sometimes, you don’t feel like being happy. Sometimes it’s nice to wallow in your sadness for a bit. What’s important to remember is that you can’t stay in that place forever, My therapist told me, “You can drive down Pity Lane, but don’t park on it.” What she means is recognize the time when it is time to let go of your sadness, frustration, or anxiety and start to choose happiness. Choose to look at the good. Choose to eliminate the negative people, situations, and thoughts from your life. Every morning take a moment to choose positivity. If you rely on your feelings to dictate your life, you will never be happy and you will never maintain a stable life. But that’s a discussion for another post. My point is: happiness is a choice.

6241681840_IMG_3926Step 3: Giving

For as much as society talks about self-love and self-prioritizing, my third step to being happy is putting others first. Now hold up. I don’t mean neglecting yourself in order to make others happy. I mean do things for people that you love, or take time out of your day to do a random act of kindness. When you make other people happy, you will be happy, too.

Step 4: Acknowledgment

Happiness isn’t experienced by ignoring every bad thing in your life and acting like everything is perfect. It is experienced by acknowledging the parts of your life that are broken and in darkness but recognizing that there is so much more than that. It is seeing everything in your life and knowing that the good outweighs the bad.

While these four steps – gratitude, choice, giving, and acknowledgment – are certainly not easy, and certainly not fool-proof, I have found that when I implement each of these into my daily life, I am more at peace with myself and with others. I feel that with these I live in the very being of love and I can be the best version of myself possible.

Until next time!

-Amanda

Feminism and Catholicism

Good morning, good day, good afternoon, good evening, good night – wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whatever is on your mind, take a moment and be grateful for one good thing in your life.

Feminism is a term that has many different connotations in this day and age. Some people see feminists as men-haters, others as radical women who do things like burn their bras in protest of the patriarchy. At its very core, feminism is strictly about the equality of every living person, regardless of gender or race, and fights to ensure that.

Feminism recognizes the inalienable dignity of each human, and looks beyond the flesh to find it. It stands for mutual respect and appreciation between people. It calls for equal treatment, equal rights, and equal love.

If this is what you stand for, if these are your morals, you are a feminist. Whether you are proud to call yourself one or not, that is what you are. Do you have to identify as such? Do you have to put it in your Instagram bio? No, not unless you want to. You don’t have to do anything about it if you truly don’t want to.

Now let’s forget about feminism for a few moments, and focus on something else. Something more universal, but not necessarily less controversial: Christian Catholicism.

I’ve tried to explain to people in my life what Catholicism is. It can’t be summed up in the way that feminism can. It’s a religion, yes, but so much more. It may seem to some like a collection of rules. It can look like an excuse to judge someone. It can be a simple past time just to make you feel good about yourself. But honestly, to any devout Catholic, none of these things come close to what it actually is.

In an effort to make it easy to understand, here is what Catholicism is to me: It is the truth which grants the freedom to love perfectly. And what does loving perfectly mean? It means that the love you hold is selfless, unconditional, and unrestrained. It means that everyone you encounter receives that love, without regard to their physical appearances or mental disabilities. It means that you recognize the dignity of each human being and fight for it with the passion of a deep love.

Sound familiar?

That’s why feminism and Catholicism are so closely related; they each focus on and build up basic human rights. In America, each human is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And there are a lot of situations in our country and others in which these rights are not respected. Abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, and immigration laws all violate these. Stigmas against race, gender, social status, or education violate these. Racist, sexist, and mean-hearted jokes violate these. Gossiping about someone else, wishing bad on them, using them for your own benefit, lying to someone violate these. Feminism isn’t just a political statement; Catholicism isn’t just a personal choice.

This is what true feminists believe in. This is what true Catholics believe in. And while it is difficult and confusing at times, and so frowned upon by society, this selfless love calls us further than what we see in front of us. It calls us further than our home town, state, country. It calls us to the starving children in Haiti. It calls us to the persecuted people in the Middle East. It calls us to the homeless men and women in New York City. It calls us to the unborn baby with down syndrome. It calls us to every corner of the world. It calls us to freedom. Freedom to love with everything we have and to fight for that love.

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A Short Autobiography

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Good morning, good day, good afternoon, good evening, good night – wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, and whatever is on your mind, take a moment and think of one good thing in your life. Maybe it’s something as huge as your own wedding, a promotion at work, a great test grade. Or maybe it’s something as small as a nutritious meal you just ate, or a flattering selfie you just took, or a cute dog you saw on your way home. No matter how great or how little, think of that one thing and thank God for putting it in your life.

Now that you’re feeling grateful and relaxed, hello there! My name is Amanda, and I’m a sixteen year old Catholic. I like to think of myself as an emotionally mature girl, and passionate about a lot of things, including my faith, mental health, identity, the pro-life movement, feminism, and a ton more. Inspired by my lovely best friend and the innumerable conversations we have about those topics, I decided to start a blog to discuss these and learn more about other people’s views on these very things.

When first making this blog last night at about 10:30, I was running through possible names in my head and it was very difficult. I considered a few witty ones, a few casual ones, but none of them felt right. Upon pitching them to my best friend, she told me, “They’re not right because they’re not meaningful. Everything you do is meaningful.”

While I don’t want to brag, and I won’t lie and say that everything I do is meaningful (we all have our moments, and we all need to relax sometimes), in all honesty, that’s what I try to do. The words I speak to others, the actions I do every day – I try my best to give them meaning, and really analyze the meaning behind them. And thus Chasing Introspection was born! The dictionary definition of introspection is “the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.” I think that being honest with yourself and exploring your own mind so that you can grow as a person every day is important.

This ideology is what this blog will be centered mostly around; my own journey in faith and through hardships, as well as analyzation of human behavior and my own reflections on it.

I’ve started twice before to run a blog, once in elementary school, and once in middle school. I think my middle school one was a step in the right direction for me, but very edited and forced from my part. I tried to make it anonymous and it didn’t work to well for me. I don’t think that I can be anyone but truly myself. So Chasing Introspection will be me, through and through, with no twisting the truth.

Now to get to the statistics. As much as I love to write and express myself, I am a junior in high school. I have dance class, adoration, choir, and copious amounts of schoolwork to complete every day. And I have a serious and consistent case of writer’s block. But as a start, I’m going to try to write a new post every other week. It’s important to me to get my thoughts out on paper (or a computer screen) before they get all jumbled together, and regular updates will ensure that that happens.

So, dear reader, we have reached the end of my short autobiography! I hope that you enjoyed, and for just a few moments could escape from your reality and into mine. Have a wonderful day!